Thank you for contacting me about Shamima Begum and returning fighters.
I would like to be very clear that anyone who has left the UK to support terrorist organisations - organisations that seek to cause harm to our citizens and sow hate in our country - is not welcome home.
I understand that more than 900 people travelled from the UK to engage with the conflict in Syria and Iraq. At least 20 per cent have been killed in the region and around 40 per cent have returned. All of those who have returned have been investigated and the majority have been assessed as posing a zero or a low security risk. It should be clear that anyone returning from the conflict should expect to be questioned, investigated and potentially prosecuted. There are a range of measures available to stop people who pose a serious threat from returning to the UK.
As you will be aware, in order to protect this country, the Home Secretary has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship as long as doing so would not render them stateless. I would like to assure you that any decision to deprive an individual of their citizenship is based on all available evidence, including secret intelligence. This power has been in place for more than a hundred years and has been used by successive Home Secretaries.
I have been encouraged by the fact that there have already been several successful prosecutions related to travel to Syria. This includes a custodial sentence of ten years for a British national found guilty in December 2017 of membership of IS, possessing an AK47 gun and receiving £2,000 for terrorism. The minimum of 40 years for Khalid Ali who was sentenced at the beginning of the year for planning a terrorist attack in Westminster reflects how seriously this country takes the terrorist threat.
I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Shamima Begum’s baby; the death of any child is a tragedy. The fact that children have been caught up in the conflict is incredibly sad. All in all, this is an extremely difficult situation and I am concerned that any attempt by the British state to send officials or others into Syria in a war zone would risk the safety of those officials.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP